Dr. Robert J. Bunker believes human civilization is in the midst of an epochal change.
It has nothing to do with the transformation of our environment. It has everything to do with the transformation of warfare.
Bunker has spent the better part of his career researching topics related to terrorism and the future of war.
He concludes that the rise of gangs, terrorist groups and other non-state security threats amounts to a challenge to long-standing established order.
“The militaries and the law enforcement have not been able to cope with the more modern battlefield,” Bunker says.
He argues that our troubles today are not unlike those faced at other times in our history.
Bunker holds several degrees, including those in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science and history.
His 36 minute talk at the Savannah Council on World Affairs combined elements of each to create an overarching view of human warfare in transition.
“When that mercenary company comes over the hill and takes out that town and plunders it or takes out those knights, is that an act of crime or is that an act of war?” Bunker asks. “When Attilla the Hun and his buddies come over the hill and do the same thing to the Roman group is that crime or is that war? What was 9/11? Was that an act of war or a criminal act?”
Bunker’s main focus of research lately has been in Mexico.
That’s where a weak government has allowed gangs and drug cartels to commit truly barbaric acts to take place.
(Be glad you don’t have to see his slides.)
But the same thing is happening in the Middle East, where ISIS terrorists have wrested control of a large swath of territory after an optimistic US invasion.
“There’s institutional vulnerability like we saw in Mexico,” Bunker says. “We really thought, ‘Hey, we’re going to go down this beautiful path of a democratic state.’ That’s a win for everybody, liberalism. But instead, the Islamists came in and they had many of the same elements as the Mexican groups.”
He points to other symbols of epochal change, including those within our economic and political structures.
But he mainly sticks to security issues in this talk.
You also should know that Bunker does abandon the realm of widely accepted modes of thought in some of what he has to say.
“What I’m literally doing is leaving the paradigms of political science and going off into a different direction here,” Bunker says.
And he does recall several names from your Western Civilization class that you really should have remembered, but probably didn’t:
Adrianople was where Rome began to fall in the 5th Century.
Agincourt was where the English defeated the French with longbows in the 15th Century.
And Westphalia was the 17th Century treaty that created modern nation-states.
Bunker argues that today’s blurring of criminality and warfare, combined with other signs, points to a similar change that may complete itself over the next several decades or the next century.
“I would argue that we’re already in this post-modern age, but we don’t recognize it as such,” he says.
This program was recorded at the Coastal Georgia Center in Savannah, Ga. on October 16th, 2014.
Bunker is a Distinguished Visiting Professor and Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College.
He is also Adjunct Faculty, School of Politics and Economics, Claremont Graduate University.
The views expressed during this presentation are his own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.
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